Gatton seniors named semifinalists in National Merit Scholarship Program

Leah Brown

Several seniors from Gatton Academy were announced earlier this month as semifinalists in the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s goal is to honor academically talented students across the nation. Over the past 50 years, the program has provided over 387,000 scholarships. 

“The students know that the National Merit (Scholarship) is an opportunity to help fund their college and they’re all very serious about that,” Lynette Breedlove, Gatton Academy director, said.   

There are three levels to the National Merit Scholarship Program: semifinalist, finalist and Merit Scholar, where they become scholarship recipients. 

 In order to become a semifinalist, students must receive a high score on their PSAT. After becoming a semifinalist, students looking to be a finalist have to write an essay, take the SAT and send in their academic records and recommendations from their school, Breedlove said. 

“We’re certainly very proud of our students and this accomplishment and we’re going to be working through the next several weeks because they have a deadline coming up to make sure that they get their essays and all those other pieces done,” Breedlove said.  

Out of the 128 Gatton students, 63 took the PSAT. 

“Our students did really well,” Breedlove said. “It just shows that they were well-prepared by their sending high schools before they got here and that they’re exceptional students.”  

Students find out if they become finalists next February and will learn if they receive the scholarship between April and July.  Out of the 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 advance to finalists. 

One of the 11 semifinalists, Benjamin Guthrie said, “It wasn’t a big surprise, but it was good confirmation.”

He took the PSAT for the first time as a freshman in high school and periodically studied for the test before he took it again his junior year. 

“It’s not the kind of test you can cram for the night before,” he said.

Gatton has had 72 students named National Merit Semifinalists in the past, the most at one time being 12 and the least being four. 

Senior Rena Ryumae said it was an amazing feeling when she found out she was a semifinalist, however she expected it after hearing a rumor of the cutoff score to qualify as a semifinalist. She took the test her freshman, sophomore and junior year, but said she did not prepare much for it. 

“I’m glad to be at Gatton and for Gatton to have provided me with all these opportunities because I think it’s really allowed me to push myself and to be a National Merit Semifinalist,” Ryumae said.